Conde Nast Traveler

Harbour Island Dive: The Vic-Hum Club

by Kate Maxwell

I like a good Negroni in a classy cocktail joint as much as the next New Yorker, but sometimes only the seedy recesses of a dive bar will do. I've lost whole afternoons drinking warm Becks and shoveling dollar bills into the jukebox at my favorite, Mars Bar on the Lower East Side. So imagine my delight when I found the ultimate dive on Harbour Island, one of the snootiest Bahamian islands, where quesadillas come stuffed with lobster and you can't buy a bikini for less than $200. Vintage license plates line the walls at the wonderful Vic-Hum Club, and beer and rum cocktails--as well as a jukebox that was pumping out exclusively Michael Jackson tracks on our visit (soon after the pop king's demise)--are only part of the story: Sport is the big draw. There are athletic options that put Fat Cat, in NYC's West Village, to shame, including pool and Ping-Pong tables and a basketball court. Admire my shooting prowess (or not) on our Harbour Island video, and make sure you drop by Vic-Hum on your next visit.

Kate Maxwell is a senior editor at Condé Nast Traveler.

Further reading:
* Check out our other Bahamas videos of Exuma and Cat Island
* Tipsy Treat: Our favorite Bahamas rum cake recipe
* The Bahamas for Everyone: Find your perfect isle


Five People to Know in the Bahamas

Clifton can get even the most inexpert
fisherwoman (in this case,
Mollie's mother) reeling in 20-pounders.

by Mollie Chen

I just got back from a whirlwind trip to the Bahamas: five islands, over a dozen flights, a handful of ferries, and a few half-dead rental cars. I discovered many things along the way, most importantly that every single one of the Bahamas' 700-plus islands and cays is different. The second most important thing I learned is that when trying to get from here to there and back again you end up relying on the help and advice of strangers. Luckily, everyone I met was unfailingly friendly. Here are five people worth looking up if you're headed to the islands:

Luther Rolle: A cross between James Earl Jones (that voice!) and Morgan Freeman, Luther owns a popular taxi service and knows (or is related to) nearly everyone in Exuma. His family has been living there for close to two centuries and he is a rich resource for Bahamas history, gossip, and inside information (242-345-5003 or 242-357-0662).

Clifton Smith: A Staniel Cay native, Clifton is the guy to know if you want to snorkel with tropical fish, dive with sharks, or feed the area's swimming pigs. He knows the Exuma cays like the back of his hand and has near-magical abilities to make things happen--when we pulled into marinas, people offered us beers, and when we offhandedly wondered about catching fish, he had us reeling in mahimahi minutes later (Staniel Cay Divers, 242-535-1474,

Jeff Birch: The owner of Andros's Small Hope Bay Lodge and head of the Out Island promotions board, Jeff knows the best diving spots, the most pristine beaches, and the most reliable flights. His rustic retreat was one of the highlights of my trip (242-368-2014).

Brenda Barry: The lovely owner of Harbour Island's The Landing hotel, Brenda is a former Miss Bahamas (the hotel's logo is a stylized picture of her in her Afro-sporting heyday) who can point you to the island's best cocktail, bike rental, or boutique (242-333-2707).

Kenneth "KB" Bowe: Kenneth's Chat 'n' Chill is Stocking Island's main attraction. The open-air beachfront restaurant has picnic tables, volleyball courts, and a popular Sunday pig roast. People come on kayaks, inflatable dinghies, and Sunfishes for Kenneth's rum punches (242-336-2700).

Further reading:
* The Bahamas: Find your perfect isle
* Video: Exuma
* Video: Harbour Island
* Video: Cat Island


London Health Care, Medieval Style

St. Bartholomew's courtyard in the early 19th century by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd

by Clive Irving

Health care was a big concern in 12th century London. There wasn't any. That is, until a humble citizen called Rahere went to Rome on a pilgrimage. There he fell sick with malaria. Roman health care, it turned out, was so good that he recovered. And so it came to pass that to thank God for his recovery, Rahere returned to London and founded a hospital, in 1123, on a site on the edge of the city called Smithfield. The Roman hospital had been dedicated to the apostle St. Bartholomew, and that was the name Rahere gave to his London hospital.

Today it is a key player in Britain's National Health Service. A huge new wing dedicated to cancer treatment is just being completed. Smithfield itself is a storied location, still the home of London's central meat market (and, allegedly, the source of the phrase a bull in a china shop, when an animal fleeing its fate ran amok through nearby high-end stores). The core of the hospital remains four 18th century wings enclosing a piazza. And it was on the edge of the piazza that I found what is one of London's smallest (and least-known) museums devoted to the hospital's history, beginning with Rahere, whose tomb is in an adjacent church.

Continue reading "London Health Care, Medieval Style" »


The London Olympics: A Ride to Nowhere

The London 2012 map: Still a work in progress, but looking good. (Click on the image for a larger version.)

by Clive Irving

It's exactly three years to go for the London 2012 Olympics. How are the preparations going? From the air, the site looks impressively advanced. The shell of the deep bowl stadium is in place. The Olympic village is taking shape. And at the heart of the site the railroad station is impressive, indicating the ambitious infrastructure commitment. From ground level it is hard to get an overview. An official Webcam site makes it seem as appetizing as open-cast coal mining.

The geography of the Olympic Park has, from the moment that London won the games, been controversial. As early as the 1820s, London earned the label of The Great Wen (from the wonderful social critic and fiery polemicist William Cobbett) for its sprawling, formless growth and early industrial squalor. The city's social balance has always been loaded in favor of its western reaches. The smartest part of town remains the West End, around Mayfair and Knightsbridge; the poorest has forever been East London, stretching out from beyond the financial center called The City eastward, first into the former docklands, now largely gentrified, and then into a grim desert where bleak suburbs mingle with random industrial sites ranging from small workshops to horrendous oil and gas terminals.

It was into this eastern morass that the British government decided to drop the Olympic Park.

Continue reading "The London Olympics: A Ride to Nowhere" »


We'll Always Have Paris: 5 Tips for Your Next Trip

Isn't it romantic? Here, the view from Île de la Cité.
Photo: Brigitte Lacombe

Inspired by Condé Nast Traveler's August story "Bargain Hunting in Europe", Dinda Elliott decided to get away to Paris a couple weeks ago. Below, find five things she learned during her travels in case you want to do the same:

1. Go with someone you really like a lot
Paris is a very romantic town, so it's a waste if you don't. My husband has a new job in Boston, and I work and live in New York with our three sons. We needed a weekend together, far from the pressures of children and work. Corny as it may sound, we have been married for 24 years, but my husband still makes me laugh. I suggest you pick someone like him to travel with.

2. Go by word of mouth
Guidebooks are great, but from the lists of hotels and restaurants, it's almost impossible to know which ones are right for you. I asked two well-traveled colleagues at Condé Nast Traveler for hotel recommendations. Remarkably, they both came up with the same place: Duc de Saint Simon. Smack in the middle of one of Paris's most charming neighborhoods in the 7th arrondissement, it is a small inn, happily planted in the "old Europe." The rooms' wallpaper matches the cotton bedspreads, and the soft linen sheets are embroidered with the hotel's name--no mod duvets here. We stayed in Room 36, with pink-swirled decor that reminded me of my grandmother's perfumed apartment. The woman at the reception desk was just a bit sniffy: perfect! 

Restaurant recommendations came from friends, too. Like Bistrot d'a Côté-flaubert, one of a food critic friend's favorites, which we went to with close buddies who have lived in Paris for years (10 rue Gustave Flaubert). The parfait of tomato coulis and poached egg with crunchy vegetables was scrumptious. The chicken "grilled like a frog" had a delicious crunchy skin. The lamb was disappointing; but the molten chocolate cake made up for it. We sat at a table on the sidewalk, talking and laughing for four glorious hours.

Our best meal was at Les Ombres, on the roof of the Quai Branly Museum of African art, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. When, on the hour, the tower started sparkling with hundreds of lights, my husband and I ran outside like a couple of kids and, giggling, took a goofy picture with our cell phone. Dinner was a fortune ($350 for two!) but worth it for a big splurge. The $100 bottle of pinot noir broke the bank.

Continue reading "We'll Always Have Paris: 5 Tips for Your Next Trip" »


Shanghai's World Expo Transformation

Not everyone's getting a new look: A section of jam-packed shikumen walled by commercial buildings.
Photo: badbrother on Flickr using Creative Commons

by Dinda Elliott

Shanghai is a giant construction site. But are there dangers lurking in the city's lightning-speed transformation? The whole place seems to be in a lather, preparing for the World Expo, a giant trade fair that will be Shanghai's coming out party next summer. The Bund has been dug up for a new subway line. The Deco Peace Hotel, whose pre-revolutionary jazz band resumed playing after reforms began in the 1980s, has been closed--but will be renovated in time for the expo. The plaza in front of the Financial Tower, across the river in Pudong, has been dug up, and will become the city's tallest building. The Financial Tower, built by a Japanese company, is the tallest structure today, but the Shanghainese won't stand for being outdone by the Japanese. Everywhere you look, there are cranes.

But not everyone is part of this remarkable transformation. Wandering the back streets near the Dongtai antiquities and junk street market, it's clear that plenty of people have been left behind. Old shikumen, low-rise buildings built before the revolution, have been trashed over the past half a century, as poor families packed themselves in, throwing up jumbled walls and carving the space into the tiniest places you could imagine a family could possibly live in.

These people still live in tiny subhuman spaces, often without basic plumbing. Chamber pots are cleaned in the lanes every morning. As I walk through a lane, I see a group of men in singlets playing mahjong at a card table. Beyond them, an old man is scaling a fish at a concrete communal sink, laundry flapping from a bamboo pole overhead. He has nothing in common with the lucky Shanghainese who are getting rich off of the local stock market, shopping in the glittering new malls. "The differences between rich and poor are becoming so extreme in this city," Mr. Hong, a driver who also trades stocks, tells me, "that if the government doesn't do something about it soon, there will be social unrest."

Further reading:
* CNT explored the neighborhoods behind the skyscrapers in "Secret Shanghai" (Oct. 2008)
* The U.S. economy may still be in a slump, but Hong Kong is partying
* Shanghai: A mix of turn-of-the-century European villas, Deco apartment buildings, and sparkling new shopping malls
* Is Hong Kong turning Communist? Or are the Communists turning capitalist?
* Dispatches: On the road


At Home in Shanghai

The old and the neon blend together in Shanghai.
Photo: Stuck in Customs on Flickr using Creative Commons

by Dinda Elliott

My friends--both foreign and Chinese--who live here in Shanghai say it beats Hong Kong as a place to live. A Chinese venture capitalist who used to reside in HK says her friends down in the former British colony, all bankers and lawyers, spend weekends either around the pool at the local country clubs or going out on each other's boats. "It's very boring," she says. "In Shanghai, we have friends from many different worlds--from wine and tech entrepreneurs to sports coaches to journalists."

Shanghai is booming, despite the economic crisis; you feel that any young person with talent is either here already or ought to be. What makes the city so incredibly hot: the dissonance of old and new. Turn-of-the-century European villas and Deco apartment buildings lend the city's denizens a sense of worldliness and history, while sparkling new shopping malls and office towers are shooting up. The restaurants and clubs are the hippest I've seen anywhere. The new nightclub M1NT has the requisite throbbing music, black furniture, and black-clad staff, plus a 40-foot shark tank--way cool. Just down the road, you can still find tree-lined lanes with tattered laundry hanging from bamboo poles sticking out the windows.

Even golf, the businessman's favorite pastime, is more convenient in Shanghai. Hong Kong's golfers generally have to go across the border to Shenzhen, more than an hour away, to hit the links. Shanghai has a dozen or so golf clubs within half an hour of the city. They cost some $150,000 to join, not including monthly dues and greens fees. But in this booming economic environment--despite the global crisis--that seems to be no deterrent.

Further reading:
* CNT explored the neighborhoods behind the skyscrapers in "Secret Shanghai"  (Oct. 2008)
* The U.S. economy may still be in a slump, but Hong Kong is partying.
* Is Hong Kong turning Communist? Or are the Communists turning capitalist?
* Dinda's Dispatches from Malaysia: "Sexual Politics, Malaysia Style," Penang's Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Obama-mania, bargaining at markets, and an interview with Anwar Ibrahim.
* Dispatches: On the road


Is Hong Kong Turning Red?

The lobby at the Four Seasons
in Hong Kong.

Photo courtesy of the Four Seasons

by Dinda Elliott

Is Hong Kong turning Communist? Or are the Communists turning capitalist? I was staying at the city's ultra-chic Four Seasons hotel recently, at $500 a night, and the lobby was filled with mainland Chinese flashing Rolexes as they spoke Mandarin into their expensive cell phones. (Cantonese, totally different from Mandarin, is the local dialect in Hong Kong.) Once upon a time, some ten years ago, mainlanders were relatively rare in the former British colony, which China reclaimed in 1997. Hong Kong people both feared and looked down on the Communist country bumpkins from the north and cracked jokes about how they spit and blow snot on the street instead of blowing their nose into Kleenex.

But those times are long gone. These days, Hong Kong friends tell me, the mainlanders are the big spenders. They flock to Hong Kong to buy bags at Louis Vuitton and Chanel boutiques. (Those stores exist in Shanghai and Beijing, but there are so many fakes in China that people don't trust that the stores themselves carry real merchandise.) Thanks to China's decade-long economic boom, mainlanders these days have money--lots of it--and they want to prove it with flashy brand-name goods. "If you speak Mandarin, you get much better service in Hong Kong," says Laura Cha, a member of Hong Kong's cabinet, who recently helped select a mainlander, Charles Li, to be the new head of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The Hong Kong government no doubt hopes Li will have the kinds of connections that will help persuade Beijing to let more mainland Chinese companies list their shares in Hong Kong. Will the real capitalists please stand up?

Further reading:
* The U.S. economy may still be in a slump, but Hong Kong was partying last Wednesday night.
* Dinda's Dispatches from Malaysia: "Sexual Politics, Malaysia Style," Penang's Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Obama-mania, bargaining at markets, and an interview with Anwar Ibrahim.
* Hong Kong Reloaded(CNT, October 2005).
* Dispatches: On the road.


Hong Kong Is Partying

The main drag in Lan Kwai Fong, a Hong Kong neighborhood
that becomes a nonstop party on the weekends
Photo: Lisa Limer for Condé Nast Traveler

by Dinda Elliott

The U.S. economy may still be in a slump, but Hong Kong is partying on a Wednesday night. My 17-year-old son, Linus, and I have just arrived after a 16-hour flight from New York. The Four Seasons, our hotel for the night, seems to be packed with mainland Chinese. I hear nothing but Mandarin: shaved-headed men chattering into cell phones, large groups sprawled in comfy arm chairs. I tell Linus that it's hard to imagine that 25 years ago, these people would have been wearing Mao suits.

Wide awake with jet lag, we wander up D'Aigular Street--bustling at 10 p.m.--to Lan Kwai Fong, a hip enclave of restaurants and pubs, where we find crowds of well-dressed young investment bankers spilling out of super-chic bars with bottles of beer in their hands. Smoke oozes from a hookah bar. We are bouncing from place to place, trying to figure out where to get a bite to eat. Within three seconds, it seems, we hear five competing pop songs blaring from adjacent clubs. Shabby tenement buildings hum with an army of air conditioners; overhead, there's a jungle of pipes and flyblown, peeling gray walls. "It's gonna be a good good night," a Chinese singer croons, arms clapping overhead.

Linus and I escape up a side street--I hear it's known as Rat Alley--and order some delicious Malaysian chicken curry noodles and Indonesian nasi goreng fried rice, which we eat sitting on stools at an open-air table. Warm air blows over us, from the row of giant wheezing air conditioners working overtime to keep the restaurants cool. I pull out the South China Morning Post, the local English-language broadsheet, which reports that the mainland Chinese and Hong Kong stock exchanges tumbled 5 percent today as a result of fear that China's banks are going to slow down their lending. But you would never know there are any economic troubles from the hyperkinetic scene among the young movers and shakers here.

Further reading:
* Dinda's Dispatches from Malaysia: "Sexual Politics, Malaysia Style," Penang's Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Obama-mania, bargaining at markets, and an interview with Anwar Ibrahim
* China for Sale (CNT, October 2006)
* Hong Kong Reloaded(CNT, October 2005)
* Dispatches: On the road


Cairo Gets Ready for Obama

Sultan Hassan Mosque
President Obama's Cairo visit will include a stop at Sultan Hassan Mosque (above), an architectural masterwork.
Photo: Susan Hack

by Susan Hack

Cairo is a city with an ancient history and a fatalistic attitude toward government. The Pyramids have been standing for 5,000 years. So what if you've been waiting five years to get that hole in the street fixed? And you think 27 years is a long time for one man, Hosni Mubarak, to be president? Why, that's just an eyeblink in the life of the Sphinx!

But Cairo's stasis and slumber have been shattered by the imminent arrival of President Obama, who is flying into the city on Thursday to deliver a major speech he says will be "about how the United States can change for the better its relationship with the Muslim world." According to Egyptian officials, Obama will spend about eight hours in the capital, meeting with the 81-year-old Mubarak at Kuba Palace, visiting the Sultan Hassan Mosque (a fourteenth-century masterpiece of Islamic architecture), making a much anticipated speech at Cairo University, and then touring the Pyramids in the company of Egypt's most famous archaeologist and international television personality, Dr. Zahi Hawass.

Obama's selection of Cairo as the place from which to address the world's 1.5 billion Muslims has energized and lent prestige to a city that has always considered itself the center of the Islamic and Arab world, yet whose influence has lately faded.

Continue reading "Cairo Gets Ready for Obama" »


Vera Zvonareva's Paris Picks

Vera Zvonareva
Vera Zvonareva discovers that being
injured in Paris in the spring has its
Photo: Ben Wyatt

Guest blogging from Paris for the Daily Traveler is international tennis sensation and UNESCO ambassador Vera Zvonareva. Over the next several days, Vera will be sharing her favorite Parisian spots and offering a glimpse of what life on the road is like for a professional tennis player at the top of her game. Take it away, Vera!

by Vera Zvonareva

I hoped I would be blogging this from the player lounge in the bowels of the Stade Roland Garros, having successfully navigated my way through a few sets of hard, dirt-track tennis and into the third round of the French Open at Roland Garros.

Unfortunately, my worst fears, which I had tried to banish with a positive frame of mind coming into this Grand Slam, were realized late on Monday when I had to withdraw from the championship. My ankle just isn't quite ready for the rigors of two weeks on clay, fighting against the best in the business for one of the four top trophies in tennis. Despite intensive treatment, there weren't enough seconds on the clock to get me to the start line.

What this did mean was that I would have a little more of what every player on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour guards preciously: free time, and in the great city of Paris. I told you on my first post how I love the French capital, especially in spring. For the first time in years, I would have a chance to stroll--well, hobble--around.

Actually, I did something I rarely do: ride a bike (a great way to keep my fitness level up without straining the ankle). This was a fantastic way to get around in Paris, since they have Vélib', this cool system of public bikes parked on many of the rues. You drop a few euros in the coin slot and a bike is yours for however long you want, and all you have to do when done is return it to one of the stands.

From the hotel, I rode straight to the Eiffel Tower, which dominates the skyline from any view. It's impressive from afar and stunning up close. I biked down a pathway along the Seine and out to the Bois de Boulogne, the green lung of Paris--all under a brilliant blue sky.

There are only two other things the girls on the Tour value as much as free time: their phones and fashion. For that I had to visit the famous, signature Louis Vuitton store in the city center. Grand, historic, and stylish, it is a window on the soul of this town.

I did my bit for the fashionistas on Tour by doing a photo shoot for London's Sunday Times Magazine last week at the Lagardère Paris Racing Club Croix Catalan. Have a look at the pics I got someone to take with my phone. A beautiful day, fabulous dresses, killer shoes, and one of the few grass courts in the city should make for some great photos coming out just before Wimbledon starts. (Which is where my mind is now. London is calling and I'm desperate to be fit and competitive for that wonderful traditional tournament at the height of summer.)

Bye for now. Thanks for reading, guys!

Further reading:
* Vera Zvonareva's first post: Training and touring in Paris
* Story: The Cradle of Paris
* Story: Isn't It Romantic?
* Video: Bicycling in Paris

Scenes from the photo shoot after the jump.

Continue reading "Vera Zvonareva's Paris Picks" »


Tennis Star Vera Zvonareva Blogs Paris and the French Open

Vera Zvonareva
Vera Zvonareva: Tennis star, UNESCO
ambassador, blogger

Photo: Getty Images

Guest blogging from Paris for the Daily Traveler is international tennis sensation and UNESCO ambassador Vera Zvonareva. Over the next several days Vera will be sharing her favorite Parisian spots and offering a peek or two into what life on the road is like for a professional tennis player at the top of her game.  Take it away Vera!

by Vera Zvonareva

I have been in Paris a few days now, preparing for the second Grand Slam of the year, the French Open at Roland Garros. I love being in Europe at this time of year-- spring is in full flow, and it just feels like the right time of year for tennis. Paris in particular is one of my favorite cities, although I have only had a small window to see the city and that has just been through a car window!

I have been staying at a tennis center in the leafy suburbs. Here I have been doing light training and have had a lot of treatment on an injured ankle, working hard to be fit for Roland Garros. I desperately want to play, having been forced out of action on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour since the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami in March. You probably have no idea how frustrating it is for professional athletes to be kept from the thing that drives them. I couldn't begin to put it into words, but tennis players accept that injury is part of the job and have to manage their mindset accordingly.

I got my first proper glimpse of this beautiful city on Wednesday when I was traveling to UNESCO's headquarters. Here I attended a press conference announcing me as a new Promoter for Gender Equality, an ambassadorial role for the UNESCO-Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Partnership. It means a huge amount to me to have been chosen for this role, helping women and girls fulfill their full potential, striving to be treated and respected on an equal plane with men. Tennis has given me an incredible life, allowing me to make all of my own choices. Hopefully in my work for UNESCO, I can help do that for other women around the world.

After the conference I was given a tour of the UNESCO building, which has a dynamic interior and is well worth a visit. The walls are covered in art from all over the world, with the pièce de résistance being a mural by the Spanish artist Joan Miro along one of the original foundation walls. Visitors are free to touch it, and it really sets the tone for this incredible educational organization. And there's great views of the Eiffel Tower too!

In the meantime, it's back to treatment and training. I move into a Paris hotel tomorrow, and I have a fashion shoot to do at one of the great old sporting clubs of France, Paris Racing Club, a green oasis right in the heart of the city. More on that in my next post!


Costa Rica's Best Caribbean Beaches

I snapped this photo of Playa Chiquita at sunset looking southeast toward Punta Uva and Panama.

by Alex C. Pasquariello

We've told you about Banana Azul and Aguas Claras, a couple of gems straddling the rasta-hippie enclave of Puerto Viejo on Costa Rica's south Caribbean Coast. I just got back from a week in this tropical paradise, where the jungle-backed beaches are the real draw. Here's the lowdown on the four best beaches, all within a rented-bike ride of Puerto Viejo.

Playa Negra is a peaceful expanse of black sand that curls from Cahuita National Park south into Puerto Viejo. The farther north you stray from town, the more deserted the beach gets; you won't have to hike to far to find your own patch of sand. Best of all, the palm trees fringing the length of Playa Negra are perfectly spaced for hammocks. Banana Azul, which is tucked into the jungle between Puerto Viejo and Cahuita, rents them out or you can pick up one on the cheap from the vendors along Puerto Viejo's main drag.

Continue reading "Costa Rica's Best Caribbean Beaches" »


Yankee Stadium: A Bronx Place of Worship

Photo: Hyla Bauer / Condé Nast Traveler

Whenever a new baseball stadium opens, the surrounding chatter quickly veers to restaurant review-land, with column inches and blog posts devoted to covering the $9 microbrews on tap and the $15 pad thai created, licensed, and trademarked by the hot new celebrity chef. 

That wasn't quite the case with the new Yankee Stadium, which attracted a depth of sports architectural coverage not seen since Michelangelo drew up plans for a jai alai court at St. Peter's.

This comparison to St. Peter's is no accident. In some parts, the Yankees are a religion. And the newly opened Yankee Stadium, as Condé Nast Traveler discovered during a confab at the stadium's Tommy Bahama Bar, is as much a house of worship--complete with all its saints (Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle) and artifacts (signed balls, battered bleacher seats) on display--as it is a ball field.

Religion aside, Yankee Stadium makes for a great day-trip.

Continue reading "Yankee Stadium: A Bronx Place of Worship" »


Life After Freedom Fries

"Petits chiens voyagent gratuitement."
Photo: Brigitte Lacombe for
Condé Nast Traveler

by G. Y. Dryansky

Autres bêtes autres moeurs, the old French saying goes: Other beasts, other habits. It's a metaphor for cultural curiosity and tolerance.

Now that we've forgotten about freedom fries, our American tolerance and curiosity about the French is back to what it was. Thing is, they're often convinced that we still get our perceptions wrong in ways that the French find intolerable.

Regarding scholarship, the French are the first to honor some of the best work about them done by Americans. Robert Paxton and Herbert Lottman's books on France in the forties, in particular. Truth to tell, when it comes to magazines and fiction, often there comes the rub. Over and over our writers project a vision of France with boilerplate perceptions of toujours l'amour and gourmet epiphanies, and we view the natives with humble awe or create patronizing caricatures of them.

Continue reading "Life After Freedom Fries" »


The Malaysian Whodunit

Najib Razak in the library of his
official residence in Putra Jaya
Photo: Kamal Sellehuddin/The Star

by Dorinda Elliott

Reading about Malaysian politics is a bit like reading the National Enquirer. If it's not sodomy and nude photos, it's exploding mistresses. The stories just get weirder and weirder. Now the country's Web sites are abuzz with stories alleging that the prime minister-designate, Najib Razak, who is expected to step into the new job later this week, is connected to a bizarre sex-and-murder scandal. Najib denies allegations that he is linked to the murder of a Mongolian translator who helped facilitate the one-billion-euro sale of three submarines to the Malaysian government and that he profited from those government contracts. But an article published recently in the French daily Liberation and now circulating on Malaysian Web sites details alleged connections between the translator, who reportedly demanded a cut of the 114-million-euro commission on the deal, and Najib. According to the Liberation, the Mongolian woman, Altantuya Shaaribuu, was killed--and then gruesomely blown up--in 2006 by two members of the Malaysian Special Branch. She allegedly was the mistress of a close colleague of Najib's--and may have been more than a mere acquaintance of Najib himself. The question, of course, is who ordered the killers to get rid of her?

Continue reading "The Malaysian Whodunit" »


Nicole Scherzinger's Feelgood Bellydancing Roils Indian Elections

The Pussycat Dolls performing "Jai Ho" on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

by Guy Martin

The power of world music is nowhere more apparent than in the home of Bollywood. Bollywood's signature dance troupe routines are, themselves, excellent narrative: flashing eyes, rampant vogue-ing, and all the footwork absolutely synchronized without the use of our restrictive, Western, eight-note scale or time signatures. A musical monument to universal longing, via Busby Berkeley and Krishna! Awesome cribbing everybody!   

However.  The world's current most popular Indian song--the Oscar-winning "Jai Ho" (You Are My Destiny), played as the credits roll over the fabulous synchronized dance in Slumdog Millionaire--is a halfbreed Bollywood tune, performed as it was by Nicole Scherzinger and the eponymous Pussycat Dolls. Just as the film itself is not a full-on Bollywood flick, but a Western (Anglo/Irish) interpretation thereof. Personally speaking, the DT is fine with that. Cultural robbery can cut both ways. Sting! David Byrne! Brian Eno! Olly-olly-in-free!

But: After last month's Oscar sweep, India's politicians woke up to the fact that Slumdog was doing something for the mood of the country, namely, infusing the common man with pride via its real-Hollywood feel-good hit at the end. And specifically, that song! "Jai Ho," which translates as "be victorious," is a common salutation in Hindi. Although performed by Scherzinger (a native of Hawaii) in her video and at the Oscars in excellent belly-baring sari-drag, "Jai Ho" was written by "India's Beethoven," the double-Oscar winner and real-Bollywood schlockmeister A.R. Rahman.

Continue reading "Nicole Scherzinger's Feelgood Bellydancing Roils Indian Elections" »


Simon Winchester Plays with Penguins

Simon Winchester, regular Condé Nast Traveler contributor and author of such books as Krakatoa, The Professor and the Madman, and his latest, The Man Who Loved China, is en route to Cape Town aboard the Corinthian II, where he's giving lectures on the Falklands War and the remaining colonies of Great Britain, among other subjects. He sent in these snapshots from South Georgia Island to make us jealous.

Simon gets to play with King penguins.

. . . and fur seals.

Read Simon's most recent Condé Nast Traveler article, "The Secret of the Caves" (April 2008)


London: A Tourist in My Own City

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by Kate Maxwell

A curious thing happened as I was strolling down London's Regent Street last Friday: I reached for my camera and snapped the curved sweep of buildings and mottled blue sky above. Why did this surprise me? Because until I moved to New York 18 months ago, I was a Londoner. I'd turned tourist in my own city.

I spent the rest of the day looking on my old haunts with alien eyes, and rather enjoyed it. Check out the map above to see what I did. Or, click here for a larger version of the map. And go to our Facebook page to see my photo album.

Kate Maxwell is a Senior Editor at Condé Nast Traveler.


Fashion Week: What Mark Loved and Hated in Paris and Milan

Beth Ditto
Beth Ditto, on Mark's Love List,
on the cover of
LOVE, a new
magazine from Condé Nast.

All is fair in love and fashion week, right? Below, the best--and worst--from Milan and Paris.

by Mark Connolly

Hate List:

I hate the drive from Malpensa Airport to Milan having not slept.
I hate the restaurant at the Hotel Amour in Paris.
I hate the freezing cold venues with hand warmers and foil blankets.
I hate super late shows.
I hate the winter weather in Milan.
I hate going to a show in the 13th arrondissement and then having to return to the same venue in traffic two hours later.
I hate jet lag.
I hate 9 a.m. shows.
I hate the bar at the Principe Hotel.
I hate not having enough sleep.
I hate being made to wait in Paris for the Louis Vuitton show on the last day.
I hate that the Louis Vuitton show started on time this season (unheard of) and that I saw the show with my face pressed against the plastic tent.

Love List:

I love the bar at the Principe Hotel.
I love having such a good time that I get no sleep.
I love Italian food.
I love the tight schedule of shows in Milan (Paris, take note).
I love being in Paris . . . it's Paris, for God's sake.
I love the Meurice Hotel.
I love being served macaroons and chocolates at certain shows.
I love the Ferré, Prada, Versace, Lanvin, Nina Ricci, and Vuitton shows.
I love the parties.
I love Willi's Wine Bar and Café Moderne.
I absolutely love Beth Ditto of The Gossip at the Fendi party, repeatedly diving into the audience wearing nothing but heavy perspiration and a black sequined bikini--and I adored Karl Lagerfeld's bemused expression.
But most of all, I just love fashion shows . . .  Au revoir!

PS. I'm finishing off fashion week with a dinner at the Costes brothers' latest venture,  the restaurant with no name, at 4 Place Saint Germain des Pres in a courtyard with no plaque. You need a special number to get a reservation--such an insider!
PPS. Just when I thought fashion week was over, tomorrow I have appointments to see the collections from Japanese designers Comme des Garcons, Junya Watanabe, and Tao, as well as Azzedine Alaia. Also going to check out the renovations at the Bristol Hotel . . . Get me out of here!

UPDATE: Hot from the dinner table! Am at the gray suede-walled, black glass interior of the latest Costes production in St. Germain. The space occupies the famous Le Bilboquet, which may well reopen, and a new Costes hotel may not be far off. Menu unfortunately is like the other Costes restaurants, but the space is elegant postmodern chic with a second empire twist. Still need the private number to book, though!

Check out where Mark went a couple of days ago.


Paris Fashion Week: Stella, Salma, and 3,000 Appointments

View Larger Map

Paris Fashion Week, according to Condé Nast Traveler's style director Mark Connolly, is one-half glam squad, one-half death march. To buttress his argument, Mark has assembled his doings from yesterday into one Google Map. His story starts below. Read it, then click above to follow Mark's journey from morning canoodling--from afar--with Salma Hayek at the Stella McCartney show to staggering into his hotel room overwhelmed (and "over-wined") the next day.

First, though, he had to get over his jet lag:

8:15 AM: First alarm call.

8:30 AM: Second alarm call.

8:45 AM: Third alarm call. Finally get out of bed. I've officially hit the fashion wall, the moment we all dread, when viewing another fashion show makes you want to commit hari-kari. Fashion fatigue has set in but I have a breakfast meeting at Angelina's with an agent prior to the Stella McCartney show, joy of joys!

Click the map above to see where Mark went from here.  Or, click here, for a larger version of the map.

Further reading:
* Paris Fashion Week: My Dream Apartment
* Paris Fashion Week Begins With a Dose of Hot Chocolate
* Milan Fashion Week: Accessory Mania
* Milan Fashion Week:  Time to Nosh


Anwar Ibrahim, an Interview in Malaysia

Photo: didiz I fotokahwin on Flickr using Creative Commons

by Dinda Elliott

What is it that makes some people so courageous, willing to risk everything for something they believe in? I am asking myself this question, thinking about how we Americans take so much for granted in the freedoms we enjoy every day.

In the cool, high-ceilinged villa that is home to Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia's former deputy prime minister, who spent six years in solitary confinement after challenging then prime minister Mahathir Mohammad, the drone of Islamic music fills the living room. The Anwar family is religious--his wife and daughters, now both politicians in their own rights, proudly wear tudongs, Malaysian headscarves reflecting Islamic modesty--and I figure the music is part of the Muslim atmosphere of their daily lives. But I am a little worried that my tape recorder will not pick up Anwar's soft voice above the din. I have waited ten years for this interview.

Continue reading "Anwar Ibrahim, an Interview in Malaysia" »


Penang's Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion: The Perfection of Imperfection

The restored mansion's cool
blue courtyard.


by Dinda Elliott

Why are the slightly ratty cane chairs in the sun-dappled outside courtyard so comforting? And the bulbous brown Bakelite plugs and clunky electrical boxes that look like they date from the 1940s? Even the fact that Daniel, the young Malay man in the front office, doesn't exactly jump to show me around or answer my questions for some reason makes me happy.

I am at the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion in Penang, a magnificent restored courtyard house built at the end of the nineteeneth century, and--though Eric the manager is careful to remind me that it is not a "hotel" due to all sorts of Malaysian bureaucracies--this is probably the best place I have stayed in my 30-odd years of world travel.

Continue reading "Penang's Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion: The Perfection of Imperfection" »


Post-Racial Malaysia? Obama Mania Hits

Malaysia for Obama

By Dinda Elliott

Condé Nast Traveler's deputy editor is in Malaysia this week.

Obama-mania has hit Malaysia. The U.S. president's name is on the tip of everyone's tongue all across the country: "Do you think Obama can save the economy?" "Obama is one of us; he grew up in a Muslim country." "Obama speaks bahasa!" "We believe Obama will make things better."

One reason Malaysians are so thrilled about Obama's story is that they see parallels between what has happened in the U.S.--the election of a politician who represents radical change, and perhaps even racial and global healing--and what might happen in their own country. Malaysia these days is charged simultaneously with a sense of trepidation and optimism.

I got a wonderful dose of politics for breakfast in Kuala Lumpur the other day at the home of an old friend, Karim, an erudite upper-class Malaysian lawyer and writer, and his partner Valentine, an art gallery owner. Over fish curry, dahl, and chapati, the conversation in their art-filled apartment, overlooking the rich folks' villas of Damansara Heights, flowed from how President Obama has reached out to the Muslim world to whether Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia's fallen-now-back-again former deputy prime minister, will be the same kind of transformative figure as Obama, uniting racially divided Malaysians behind a drive for clean government. "Anwar is certainly an icon," Karim said.

Continue reading "Post-Racial Malaysia? Obama Mania Hits" »


Paris Fashion Week: My Dream Apartment

Jacquemart-André Musée

by Mark Connolly

When not attending the fashion shows in Milan and Paris, Condé Nast Traveler Style Director Mark Connolly has found time to blog about eating, accessories, and, um, eating

Welcome to my home away from home in Paris, my little bijou pied-a-terre if you will. Only in my dreams!  Really, it's a little hidden gem of a museum in the 8th Arrondissement called the Jacquemart-André Musée.  It will take you only 20 to 30 minutes to walk through this splendid Second Empire house and view the amazing private apartments as well as Italian Renaissance artwork, eighteenth-century masterpieces by French and Flemish masters. 

Continue reading "Paris Fashion Week: My Dream Apartment" »


About this blog
The editors at Conde Nast Traveler answer questions and share travel secrets, tips, and dispatches

Twitter: CNTraveler
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